Category Archives: Decluttering

On storing my children’s childhoods

Ok, so yeah, I’m feeling quite better now. Not stellar, but better. It’s after noon and I’m still in my pajamas (technically), but I’ve accomplished a lot today so far. And half the kids are fed (who knew my son liked chicken salad?), so I’m gonna call that winning.

Here’s what’s on my mind today: I get really frustrated when the house starts to become untidy, when I see things laying (lying?) around where they don’t belong (confession: that’s on my mind EVERY day). A lot of it is the kids’ stuff, but a lot of it too are areas I am intending to sort and organize. Kids bring home a lot of stuff from school. Some of it is not important, and can be pitched immediately, but then a lot of it I believe is worth hanging on to, at least for a little while. I will sometimes hang artwork on the fridge, take a picture of it for proper archiving, and then recycle it after a few weeks.

I’ve been doing pretty well at keeping up with the inflow, but those last few weeks of school were a whirlwind and I kind of gave up for a spell (yes, I said spell). So I have been wanting to get that last batch taken care of before we’re too far into the summer. And guess what? Today I did it! It’s all been archived and/or stored (some things are hard to photograph, so I keep them) and now I’m getting ready for next year!! I am abhorrently against clutter, so it may seem odd that I’m choosing to keep any of my children’s elementary school mementos, but I am sometimes a sucker for sentimental things. Also, I at one time enjoyed looking through the crap I made as a kid. I once created a watercolor painting of a giant can of Campbell’s Soup. Not exactly the kind of thing you would frame and hang in your kitchen (maybe), but even after all those years I still remembered how hard I worked on that painting, and how satisfying it was to complete. So, you know, memories. I expect my children may have some memories wrapped up in these things I’m keeping, and maybe one day they’ll want to revisit them. Or not, it will be their decision.

My only issue at this point is that the small boxes I’ve been using to keep these mementos are rather full. So I need to find the sort of boxes where I can keep these things in decent shape, but also sorted by year. Do such boxes exist? I’m sure they do. I’ll be scouring Amazon later, of course. Maybe Etsy or Pinterest will have some good ideas too. Do you have any ideas? I’ll take any suggestions you’ve got!

Kids and clutter, and the proper spelling of memento

Your Child’s Messy Room is Your Fault – Minimalist at Home

This article is so right on. So many thoughts here. I’m currently feeling a struggle with my daughter (age 6) and her room. While she is actually not opposed to cleaning her room (she’s done it voluntarily a number of times), it’s gotten to the point where “cleaning” it doesn’t make a lick of difference. There’s just too much stuff in too small a space. So as the adult here, I do see it as my responsibility to help her.

I found some smelly and sticky things in her room today. Mementos she had forgotten she saved, because time had passed and they were hidden by so many other “important” mementos. Until now, I’ve been hesitant to take a strong and drastic stance with my kids on the subject, because I do believe that even young children deserve our respect. As parents we teach them to respect other people’s property, so if I were to go in while she was away and throw away half her toys and treasures (which constantly tempts me), that would kind of negate the whole message now, wouldn’t it? We need to lead by example.

You may ask why this is such a hot button for me. Why do I care so much about it? Well, because she is me. I was that little girl holding onto every memorable toy and trinket (and they were ALL memorable, of course), and proudly “organizing” every last item. Only it’s true – you can’t organize clutter. You may think you’re organizing but you’re not, you’re just rearranging. It takes a LOT of time and energy.  And while the end result feels nice for a second, it quickly fades (and quickly gets re-disorganized) and you are still left with the stress of the stuff and who knows what’s growing in it. I didn’t learn to come out of this cycle until my thirties, and I’ll be darned if I’m going to let my children enter adulthood stuck in the same cycle. I want to teach them good and healthy habits and attitudes toward “stuff” and I am in no way interested in a short term solution.

So that leaves me needing to land somewhere in the middle. And this article suggests a fairly simple method for doing that. Yes, this strategy involves the mom doing all the work, but she’s merely taking the blame/responsibility for letting the clutter build over the years, and is using the purge as a sort of reset button. That’s what I’m looking for. A reset button.

“Did they interrogate me about what I threw out? Yep, they did. My reply was to challenge them to tell ME what was missing and then we’d discuss it. Of course, they couldn’t identify a single thing.”

That right there not only makes me chuckle with a snarky sparkle in my eyes, but I suspect that will be exactly what happens with my daughter. So I’m gonna try it! I’ll just take a few hours, lock her out of the room, and pack up everything I suspect she doesn’t care to play with anymore (and throw away the trash in between). She’s in a stage right now where her tastes are changing quite dramatically, so I’ll be sure to have a good heart-to-heart with her beforehand, to get a good idea of what she will still make use of and what she won’t. I think as long as I do this with kind and thorough communication, it can really work. It’s worth a shot, anyway. Wish me luck!

Buh-bye you crazy clown

I finished reading that art of tidying book. It was a library book so if I’m going to follow her plan I’ll have to do it from memory or find the resources elsewhere. I suppose it doesn’t really matter, because I only plan to follow it loosely anyway.

Following it loosely means I’ll declutter when I get the inkling and have the energy. What that means is that when I come across something I forgot I had that does not – to use her terminology – “spark joy” I will quickly discard of it and happily move on with my life.

For example, tonight I said goodbye to that clown blanket I mentioned on Tuesday, along with a quilt I was given after volunteering at a children’s grief camp (the dog ripped it months ago, and I don’t fix things sooo, you know). I’ve included a picture of the clown blanket below. (One of my best friends has a serious clown phobia, so… my sincere apologies Tracy!). My grandma was in a clown ministry so I think that’s why she made these blankets. It kind of looks like he’s waving goodbye, doesn’t it? You bet I waved right back, with the same silly smile even.

Today was a good day.

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Permission to purge

“To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose.”

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Kondo, Marie
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KK0PICK

I am loving loving loving this book and what it is teaching me. I am gaining some really fresh insight about what things to keep, what to discard, and why. I have done a great deal of de-cluttering around the house that turned out making our move to this new home much easier. I started the purging process long before we even knew we would be moving, but I’m so glad I did. The packing and unpacking would have been a major cluster****. However, I am still frustrated on a fairly regular basis as I come across things that lack a home and/or take up space. But this woman who has mastered the art I strive for has given a beautiful explanation for my frustration. Why am I so irritated? Because these things don’t bring me joy. They have served their purpose and it’s okay to let them go.

It’s okay! Goodbye to the labelmaker that no longer connects to my computer. I made plenty of labels with it. I can say goodbye to that tailored green jacket. I wore it when it fit post-pregnancy and I don’t plan to be that heavy again. I can even say goodbye to the clown afghan my grandmother crocheted for me when I was a little girl. I enjoyed it, loved it nearly to pieces, but it’s time to let it go. The memories will remain. Ah, this is such a freeing feeling for me. I can discard things and forget about feeling guilty. I can’t wait to get to it.

But for now, I’m honestly still recovering from having the kids home for Christmas break, so I’m tired. And it’s flipping cold, so that doesn’t help. My legs are not cooperating, because the extreme temperatures and MS do not get along. So well just have to table this discussion for later. Such is my life, and we keep moving on. Walk on, my friends, walk on.

Lunch coolers

We had six thermal lunch bags. Two for me, two for Luke, and two for Natalie.Mine are the black & white paisley-ish and the red toile patterned, Natalie’s are the colored polka-dots and the pink with the butterfly, and Luke’s are the plain black and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
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Now we have three. One for each of us. We decided to keep the red toile, pink butterfly, and plain black.
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My kids use lunch bags for school occasionally, and they may more often at the new school come September. I don’t have a job to go to anymore, so I don’t use mine much. However, it is nice to have one in case we go to the park, or on a long drive. I like having healthy snacks available. I thought keeping one for each of us was reasonable.

I have to be honest though, and disclose the fact that I have several more thermal bags and boxes down in the basement. I have used them all on occasion, for camping trips mostly. We camp once a year, so it might not seem worth it, until you get rid of them and six months later you are packing for that camping trip and asking yourself where you are going to pack the hot dogs and string cheese and drink boxes. Because these need to be kept cool, but don’t fit real well in the cooler with all the water and Gatorade bottles. So really, it’s justified, right? Am I right??

I’m afraid I am far from done.

The Secretary Hutch

It’s only been a little over a week since the offer was accepted on the house we are purchasing, but since that day I have been mildly obsessed with where I will put my “office”. In our current house, it is at the end of our large kitchen (pictured below, don’t judge!) and though it tends to become a clutter magnet, the location does work well. Because I spend a lot of time in the kitchen anyway.

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 However, the layout in the new house is quite different, and there is no obvious space for an office area. I feel like I need to have a plan. Not that I need a plan before we move in, just that I need a plan so I can sleep better at night.

We have a very old secretary desk/hutch that we inherited from a family member years ago. It’s sturdy, well-built, and I think could work for my office space. I like the functionality of it because I can bring down the platform while I work, then put it back up when I’m done. And the three drawers underneath can serve as storage for paper and other supplies. It’s just not the cutest. So I was looking online to see what options are out there for new secretary desks. Ouch. For anything decent, it’s quite expensive. So I’m starting to think we could make this one work.

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For today I’m  just going to try and clean it out. Let’s see what we have here…

{Twenty minute intermission}

Okay, I’d be lying if I said I made any real progress. But I did discover a few things of interest.

1) I found my Riverdance CD, which just last week I had been wishing I could find because I think it may be music that would sound good to my bilateral CI ears.

2) I found the Puzzler!! I made for holding puzzles in progress (I used to be crafty). It’s really just a giant cardboard tube with a long piece of felt attached. So you assemble the puzzle on the felt, then when you need the table space for doing “important” things like eating, you just roll it up, and it saves it for later. In theory. It’s been at least a decade since I’ve used it, and I don’t remember how well it worked. I’ll be getting rid of this for sure, but maybe as a gift to my puzzle-loving sister 😉

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3) I have 22 VHS videos in the bottom drawer. I purged my VHS movies ages ago, but these are all home movie types. I’m actually not sure what’s on all of them, and several belong to my husband, so this may be a joint project to continue later. I know that we also have many more tapes, along with our camcorder, hidden in our daughter’s closet. So yes, a project for another day. Archiving outdated technology is something I know nothing about.

And yes, I confess I am procrastinating. But I did make progress on the pull-down desk part! See??

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Ok, that’s enough for today. The little people need my attention…

Cookbooks galore

Declutter project #1 – Cookbooks!! This should be an easy one. I barely used cookbooks when I could see well, and with the loss of vision I have dropped off the cookbook wagon. There is a wagon, isn’t there?

Out of all these cookbooks shown below (list to follow for those who care), we only use one: The Mrs. Field’s Cookie Book (image #2). We use it on a regular basis, and mostly just for one recipe, chocolate chip cookies. However, my son has developed a love for baking, and he has tried a few different cookie recipes from the book on his own. Just yesterday he made peanut butter cookies. So yummy, and so worth keeping the book. As he gets older I expect him to get a bit more adventurous and try some of the fancier cookies. Because Momma loves cookies.

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These books are going bye-bye:

  1. DeWitt Community Cookbook (Girl Scout Troop 183)
  2. Favorite Recipes of Hartford United Methodist Church
  3. The Four Ingredient Cookbooks (Three Cookbooks in One!) – this has a crap-ton of simple, yet dated recipes. Who eats “company beef”? It doesn’t even sound good.
  4. Saving Dinner – This includes meal plans and shopping lists, and I actually got quite a bit of use out of it in the early years of marriage, before the kids came of course 😉 It introduced me to meal planning, which I still do, only now I use the internet with websites such as Cozi, Allrecipes, etc..
  5. The  George Foreman Lean Mean Fat Reducing Grilling Machine Cookbook – I don’t even think we have the grill anymore. I’ll find out soon enough when my decluttering project moves to the kitchen cupboards!
  6. The Color Book of Cheesecakes – is this mine? Where did this come from??
  7. Betty Crocker’s New Dinner for Two Cookbook (1971) – clearly an antique. Could I donate this to the historical museum?
  8. Classic Cooking with Coca-Cola – I used to be a collector of all things Coke, more on that later…
  9. Coca-Cola Cool Recipes – again, remains of the collection
  10. Campbell’s Simply Delicious Recipes – I used this a lot, and it has some great tasting, easy recipes, all of which you can find online now.
  11. Easy Cooking with Brand Names – I have no comment here. It’s pretty, but I don’t think I ever used it. It’s just a nice looking book.
  12. Betty Crocker’s New Cookbook – Everything You Need to Know to Cook (1996) – this was a wedding gift, I believe. I must have used it once or twice, because I have a post-it note flagging the page with the banana bread recipe: “stick butter, buttermilk”. Crap, now I opened it to read the note and felt an overwhelming nostalgia that’s urging me to keep it. The struggle is real, folks. Must… let… it… go!
  13. Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook – I think this one actually belongs to my sister. Yup, there’s a note just inside the cover. Definitely not mine, and definitely doesn’t fit in my kitchen. It’s huge!!

That’s my list, and I wrote far more than I anticipated. I have other things to do, like feeding the children. It’s time for lunch!!

Type A Confessions

I’ve kind of been on a mission to de-clutter my home, one tiny area at a time. I’ve written about involving the kids recently, but it’s been going on for much longer than that. And now that we are buying a house, it’s time to kick it up a notch.

As a woman with a type-A personality, my problem is not so much with figuring out where to start as it is with learning where and when to END. Because once I get started, I get so thrilled with the progress I’m making and I fear that if I stop when the timer goes off, that I’ll never get the motivation or time to start again. Have I mentioned I’m home all summer with two young children and a dog? The dog is the least of my worries, actually. She doesn’t interrupt me every 3 minutes to ask a question. Or tell me something, or show me something she made. Yes, I love my kids, and I know one day I’ll look back fondly at these pestering moments. I’m just saying they infringe on my inner need to GET THINGS DONE.

So I’m looking for balance. For a realistic plan to accomplish my de-cluttering goals. How can I be sure I’m doing the best I can, with what I’ve got, to get this place ready to pack up and move? I’ve started by listing the areas that need attention, and I think I’m just going to make it a daily ritual. Each day I’ll just work on the area I feel most like doing that day. Which totally goes against my planner mentality, but attempting to plan it all down to the last detail just seems too overwhelming. And unrealistic, as I need to be flexible enough to work around whatever is going on that day here at the house. Will the kids be at Grandpa’s today, playing outside, or playing video games? What kind of moods will they be in? Are they cranky & defiant or are they cooperative and willing to play together without screaming bloody murder every 30 seconds? Because some days they require closer supervision, and that affects the type of work I can get done that day.

I’m guessing if you are still reading, either you share in this type-A personality or you have run out of good reading material. Either way, I thank you 🙂 I think I’m done with this subject for now. Oh, wait, no. I just had an idea; let me know what you think of this… what if every day I blogged (briefly, I promise) about what I have de-cluttered that day. Some days I could even make it interesting. It would be a sort of accountability to keep motivated, and if I come across some interesting junk, it might be fun to write about it before I ditch it. In a way it may be easier to let go of certain things, because if some things had a story, I could post a picture, write the story, and be able to preserve the memory. Because you know that’s why we hoarders like to keep things – it’s the memory attached to the thing – and it’s often super hard to let go. Yes, that’s what I will do. This will be my pre-moving project, to rid our lives of unnecessary clutter, and to share it here on the blog. Who’s with me?!?

Conquering the hoarding addiction?

Oh boy. We’ve been having a fun summer break so far, but it hasn’t been all play. I’m enforcing the “No Screentime Until” rules, most days, and it’s working fairly well. Luke has embraced it, because he is my child, and loves following a list. Natalie, on the other hand, moans and groans at it. Every. Single. Time. But I do realize she is only 5 years old, so I have lower expectations for her. The success with Luke more than makes up for it.

Here’s the thing… I am a recovering hoarder and I’m fairly certain that the tendency for hoarding is genetic. I have unfortunately passed this on to my children, and I am on a mission to reverse the effects and teach my kids early on to overcome it. So far this summer we’ve accomplished some MAJOR de-cluttering in this house. It’s been primarily in the kids’ rooms, but I’ve done my share in other areas too.

Last week we took everything out of Luke’s room and dumped it all on the living room rug. Then we cleaned his room and rearranged some furniture (at his request). Then Luke went through everything that was out in the living room, deciding what he wanted to keep and what he wanted to get rid of, keeping in mind that he could only keep what would fit comfortably back in his room. This was a huge job, folks, but he loved seeing the transformation in his room. And now he has easy access to the toys he uses most, and it’s so much easier for him to keep his room clean. He recognizes this new reality very clearly, which I think at age 8 is no small miracle.

The process worked so well for Luke,  a couple days later I tried it with Natalie. Did I mention she’s 5? Yeah, it didn’t go nearly as well with her, because as soon as she spotted a toy she hadn’t seen in awhile, she immediately wanted to play with it. So while she played, I sorted through her things, trashing obvious junk and sorting the rest into categories. She does well with categories, and does a decent job of keeping similar things together. I still have a few tubs/baskets of Natalie’s things to sort and organize, but we will get to it. Eventually. I’m just happy right now to be able to walk through her room to kiss her goodnight.

When all was said and done, we were able to donate a trunk full of toys to the kids’ pre-school, and several bags of clothing and assorted toys to the local recycling service (to be re-used). I am so proud of both of the kids, but especially Luke. He and I are so similar in so many ways, so I understand his struggles with keeping his room neat and parting with cherished items. I still remember my bedroom from high school days – it was a disaster – and I do not want him growing up with the same terrible habits.

I am 37 and have yet to really conquer my hoarding habits. I have come a long way, yes, but I still feel like I’m managing. They say an addict is always an addict, even if they’ve managed to stay clean (figuratively AND literally, in this case). The temptation and draw is always there. But these kids, they are still young, and they are still forming habits. Now is the time to instill the good habits, so that they grow up to be adults who will naturally pick up after themselves and say no to buying things they don’t need or have space for. Sound too neurotic? Maybe. But this is important, people! I am doing this for their future roommates and spouses! Someday, someone will thank me!!

A Saner Me

The kids are off to school, hubby is at work, the puppy is sleeping at my feet, and I am sitting at the dining room table with a hot cup of fresh coffee and the whole day ahead of me.

I feel like I can breathe again.

It’s amazing how different things can look depending on your mood. I’ve had some pretty rough days these past couple of weeks. I’ve had the kids home with me but with the added challenge of a new puppy. There have been plenty of good  moments, yes, but there were also many moments I don’t care to remember. Moments I’m not proud of.

I am not one to make New Year Resolutions, but this year the timing worked in such a way that it made perfect sense to make one. So I resolved to stop the yelling. It’s only been five days, and I’ve failed a few times, but I have had victories as well. And the victories outweigh those few failures. Especially considering they are more recent, showing that I am making progress.

I thought breathing and counting was the secret to not losing my temper, but that proved to be ineffective. I think the problem runs deeper with me, and therefore requires a more extensive solution. I think the key is in changing my perceptions, my expectations, and learning how to pause and really relax. “So what if she pees? Clean it up and move on.” “The kids left their toys all over the couch? Calmly and firmly ask them to put them away.” If I practice these kinds of attitudes throughout the day, practice them in moments of calm, then they become second nature when the calm suddenly turns to chaos. The result? A saner me. One who deals with the issue at hand, rather than reacting to it.

So, here’s to a new beginning. A saner me. Go forth and be sane 🙂